I suppose if we all collectively decided to praise Star Wars for taking a few years off and then coming back to just do the first one again, but with added nostalgia, it’s hard to hate Terminator: Dark Fate for doing pretty much the same thing. Then again, the Terminator franchise has been doing pretty much the same thing for decades now; we’ve decided that those are the only kinds of Terminators that are allowed, after all. Remember when they tried to deviate from the formula? Didn’t work out too well, did it?
The lore to the Terminator movies might be more interesting than the films themselves, at least overall. That lore states that, at some point in the future, the robots take over and wipe out most of humanity. The survivors are led by a certain hero, and he or she might be able to lead the humans to a comeback victory. So, instead of wiping out the present version of this person, they send Terminators back to the past in order to kill either that individual as a child or its mother before it’s been born. The humans send back either another human or a reprogrammed Terminator to fight the evil one and keep the Important Person alive. And, for better or worse, that’s how most of these movies go. Terminator: Dark Fate is no exception.
The chess pieces: Dani (Natalia Reyes) is the human in present day that needs protecting; Grace (Mackenzie Davis) is sent from the future to protect her; and Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) is the new and super-advanced Terminator sent to murder her. If you’ve seen the ads, you know that Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) returns to the franchise to aid in Dani’s protection, and that Arnold Schwarzenegger also reprises his role as an older version of the Terminator he’s played in the past. Continuity-wise, Dark Fate ignores all but the first and second Terminator movies, but that honestly doesn’t play as big of a role as you might think.
Outside of that? It’s a Terminator movie. It’s formulaic in its approach, relying on its tried-and-true storytelling to do what it does, throwing in bits of nostalgia here or there in order to make die hard fans giggle with glee. Is it awesome to see Linda Hamilton back after what feels like forever? It sure is. Does it improve the movie? Not especially. But that cool factor makes her involvement worth it. And it helps mask how basic the film is, and how it doesn’t do anything to make it stand out.
That doesn’t make it bad. Don’t read what I’m not typing. The formula works for a reason and we haven’t exactly had a lot of these, so it’s not even like they’ve worn out their welcome. If it makes enough money to warrant a sequel, one has to hope it follows in Star Wars‘ tracks and uses its sequel to advance past the past. There are fun action scenes and the ever-present threat of this new Terminator is thrilling. Seeing Hamilton and Schwarzenegger is a joy, and Mackenzie Davis steals the show.
So, in short, Terminator: Dark Fate is a fine movie and if you liked the previous ones, even the “lesser ones,” you’ll have a good time. It’ll score bonus points if you have nostalgia for the first two. The action is generally pretty good, the cast is strong, and while it sticks almost too rigidly to the established formula, at least it’s doing a good job of it. It’s a mostly fun movie that plays things safe and has almost nothing actually worth discussing, beyond hoping that its theoretical sequel will do more than just retell the same story we’ve heard for decades.
Conclusion: Terminator: Dark Fate is a fun but disposable movie that follows a formula and plays to nostalgia.
Recommendation: If you like other Terminator movies then you’ll get a kick out of Dark Fate.
- Rating - 6/106/10